Most companies say they provide customers with the best service. But do they go the extra mile to really understand their customers’ needs? D4H Technologies certainly does.
Based in the Baily lighthouse on Howth Head, D4H has created a suite of market-leading software solutions that enhance the readiness, response and re-evaluation capabilities of emergency service providers and public safety teams around the world.
Helping and protecting others is in the blood for the people at D4H. Robin Blandford, founder and CEO, is also the deputy officer in charge of the Coast Guard station in Howth. Many of his employees hold similar positions.
“Nearly all of our staff would have some sort of role in the emergency response services – on search and rescue teams and emergency management,” Robin explains. “It is a factor we look for when we’re hiring staff. It gives them a passion for our market. I use our product with the Coast Guard and it gives me a very good understanding of the user and what they need.”
How D4H started their journey with Enterprise Ireland
D4H evolved from a database that Robin developed for his Coast Guard station to look for patterns and trends in local incidents. “Slowly that transitioned into becoming a useful tool for managing the unit itself until I eventually gave up my regular job to focus on the software fulltime in 2008,” he says.
“We went straight into Enterprise Ireland and the DIT hothouse incubator. We got €17,000 in funding to help cover costs while we built our product. That was year one.
“When we came out the incubator, it felt like we were coming off a cliff because we needed to find customers and revenue and we weren’t quite at that point. So we applied for the first-ever year of Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Funding and were accepted. It was a real turning point for us. Enterprise Ireland gave us €50,000 for 10% of the company, and it was the last investment we have taken.
“Since then D4H has just grown organically. Budgets are reasonably steady in public safety, so there was no impact from the recession – we were exporting from day one. We are now up to 12 employees. Our growth has been steady at around 50% annually. We have a very strong base with some very big name customers.”
Specialised software that saves lives
The threats of terrorism, industrial accidents and severe weather might seem a world away from a quiet lighthouse on the northern edge of Dublin Bay, yet it is from there that D4H’s work helps saves lives when such events occur.
Robins says, “Dealing with these threats requires specialised teams with specialised equipment and specialised training, and that’s exactly who we serve.
“Our software helps track the training, qualifications and availability of personnel and the equipment they use. We have an incident management product which tracks everything the response teams do, and an incident reporting tool which lets teams analyse and re-evaluate their performance. That feeds back into the readiness, so it’s a cycle between our products.
“About 80% of our customers are in North America. We supply police, fire, SWAT, chemical response teams, bomb squads, disaster response, medical response, search and rescue teams, and others throughout Canada and east coast United States. We’ve done the Boston Marathon for the last two years, assisted with software for that.
“We’re also working with a number of cities on the west coast of the US. A lot of the firefighters tackling wildfires there recently would be tracked using our system with regards to training and their equipment readiness.”
“Another growth area is corporate organisations. These events hurt them, they shutdown offices and affect their sales. This year we’ve seen a massive uptake in very large companies contacting us and asking us what public safety are doing and how can we replicate this.”
Leveraging Enterprise Ireland’s overseas network
Most of D4H’s target customers won’t be found on any generic list of companies and so the company leverages Enterprise Ireland’s network to open doors and make introductions.
Robin says: “We tell Enterprise Ireland who we want to be introduced to and their local office do some research around the company, or provide an introduction letter, or get us a meeting.
“We’re dealing with bomb squads, SWAT teams, hazmat teams and others. If we have a big meeting and we get a letter of introduction from Enterprise Ireland, something which states that they stand over us and are an investor in our company, then it provides us with good credibility.
“I’m very comfortable with how were doing it. All the signals are very good. Ours is a very niche market, you can’t just pump in advertising and marketing money and expect to clean up. Public safety is a very risk averse industry, you have to build trust and relationships, and we’ve done that very well.”